Modern Healthcare: Rural hospitals feel the squeeze as Medicare extender funding in flux

EXCERPT: “As Congress considers waiting until January to fund expired Medicare programs, the continued uncertainty already roils rural hospitals. The Medicare dependent hospital program and the low-volume adjustment are among the Medicare provisions that must be regularly renewed by Congress, but expired on Sept. 30, known as extenders. These are mandatory appropriations, but Congress has to agree to make them through legislation and the hope was that they would ride along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program in the last spending bill of the year. Medicare dependent hospitals — facilities where 60% of their patients are on Medicare — have to make up an additional 19% in revenue from other payers including Medicaid or private insurers to replace the lost extender funding, according to Maggie Elehwany of the National Rural Health Association. This is happening as the rate of rural hospitals that operate at a loss has just increased to 44% — a 3% increase since last year, according to analysis by the Chartis Center for Rural Health.” FULLSTORY: